The transition from Alex Salmond to Nicola Sturgeon

By Glenn Campbell
BBC Scotland news

Image source, PA

Alex Salmond is preparing to stand down as Scotland's first minister and leader of the SNP, after more than seven years in the job.

Over the next week, the process of a handover of power to his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon will play out - the first time such an arrangement has been made since the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999.

This is what is likely to happen over the next few days.

Thursday 13 November

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Midday at the Scottish Parliament and Scotland's longest-serving first minister, Alex Salmond, faces question time for the last time, as he prepares to stand down as SNP leader and head of the Scottish government.

Mr Salmond said he loved and would miss his weekly joust with opposition leaders and MSPs and claimed to have had a "great run" in the Holyrood chamber.

His opponents claim he rarely bothered to answer the questions they asked.

After seven-and-a-half years as first minister, Mr Salmond announced his intention to quit on 19 September 2014 in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum in which 55% voted "No" to Scotland becoming an independent country.

Friday 14 November

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Perth, 10:00 and after 10 years as Mr Salmond's deputy, Nicola Sturgeon will formally takeover from him as leader of the Scottish National Party at their annual conference in Perth. She is the only candidate for the job.

The party will also announce the results of the election for a new deputy SNP leader. The candidates are MSPs Keith Brown and Angela Constance and the MP Stewart Hosie.

Later, Mr Salmond, will address his party's conference for the last time as Scotland's first minister. He remains head of the Scottish government for a few more days.

The following day, Ms Sturgeon will address the SNP conference as party leader for the first time.

At this stage, she is still deputy first minister and cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities in the Scottish government.

Tuesday, 18 November

Image source, Reuters

Back at the Scottish Parliament, Mr Salmond will make a statement to MSPs confirming his intention to resign as first minister. He must also notify the Queen in writing.

Opposition leaders will have the chance to question him on his statement. It is likely to be the last time Mr Salmond speaks in parliament as first minister.

He will remain MSP for Aberdeenshire East.

Wednesday, 19 November

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MSPs will meet at Holyrood to select a new first minister.

Candidates for the post must be nominated in writing with the support of another MSP. Nominations can be submitted up to 30 minutes before the selection process begins.

In 2011, Alex Salmond was elected unopposed. But on previous occasions, the leaders of all the main parties and some independent MSPs have stood for election as first minister.

This time, there are likely to be two candidates. The Conservatives have indicated their leader, Ruth Davidson, intends to Ms Sturgeon for the post.

Both will be entitled to make short speeches in support of their candidacy before MSPs vote. As the SNP holds a majority of the seats in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon's success is all but guaranteed.

Holyrood Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick, will recommend to the Queen that she is appointed as Scotland's fifth first minister.

Thursday 20 November

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In Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon will swear an oath of allegiance before Scotland's judges in the Court of Session.

She will also have received a Royal Warrant from the Queen confirming her appointment as first minister, although the handover is not made personally.

Later, Ms Sturgeon will take questions as first minister in the Scottish Parliament. She has previously deputised for Mr Salmond in this role.

The new first minister is expected to appoint a deputy, possibly as part of a wider reshuffle of the Scottish government's ministerial team.

The new deputy first minister need not be the SNP's deputy leader.

It is customary, although not essential, for a newly appointed first minister to have an audience with the Queen soon after taking office.

This meeting has generally taken place at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, opposite the Scottish Parliament - although first minister Jack McConnell travelled to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle for his audiences.

Mr Salmond's 2011 audience took place some weeks after his re-appointment, possibly because it coincided with the Queen's state visit to the republic of Ireland.

The Queen has official engagements in Scotland on Thursday 20th November but is not expected to meet Ms Sturgeon.

The new first minister is likely to become a member of Her Majesty's Privy Council at a later date. The Privy Council is next due to meet on 10th December.

Meanwhile, Alex Salmond will continue to serve at Holyrood as MSP for Abderdeeshire East.

He is also considering standing for the UK parliament in the 2015 general election. He was MP for Banff and Buchan between 1987 and 2010.

Ms Sturgeon told the BBC she had "no fear" of Mr Salmond continuing in politics.

"He won't be a backstreet driver" she said. "I'll be in charge and I don't think he's in any doubt about that."